Strong demand for freight transport, group travel and repatriation flights during the coronavirus pandemic helped to bolster the performance of global aviation services company Air Partner in the first five months of its financial year. 

However, the outlook for the rest of 2020 looks less rosy for the UK-headquartered firm, as requests for these services dry up and economic uncertainly stifles the air travel market.

Source: Gulfstream

At an annual general meeting on 15 July, Air Partner chair Ed Warner said the company’s performance between February and June “was predominantly driven by very high levels of Covid-19-related activity in our group charter and freight divisions, including repatriations, corporate shuttles and emergency PPE [personal protective equipment] flying”.

The company was “well positioned” to support the “emergency aviation needs” of its customers during the pandemic, he adds, due to “early and decisive action”.

Business so far in July has been “more normalised”, Warner says, “and we have seen fewer emergency freight flights and less repatriation work”.

The company is, however, “encouraged” by the level of enquiries it is receiving from customers “returning to our private jet and safety and security products, and we are anticipating a profitable month”, he says.

While Air Partner will not report its half-year earnings until September at the earliest, Warner expects trading between 1 February and 30 June will have been “significantly ahead of budget”. Unaudited management accounts for this period show an “expected underlying profit before tax of at least £10 million [$12.6 million]”. This compares with £3 million for the six months ended 31 July 2019.

While the company is “very pleased” with its performance to date, Warner cautions that “visibility for the second half [of the financial year] remains limited, with economic and regulatory uncertainty from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

In response, he says Air Partner has “undertaken a number of cost-saving initiatives… to reflect the likely future demand patterns for our aviation services”. Details of these measures have not been disclosed.

Anticipating a downturn in activity, Air Partner in June raised £7.5 million from existing and new shareholders. These funds, Warner says, “have enabled the group to enter the second half of the year with significantly reduced debt, and good working capital to invest in organic growth opportunities”.